All Paths Lead Through the Kitchen Table

29 Oct

To listen along, click here:

There is nothing quite like the joy of a spiritual breakthrough for me, and I got a great one this morning. I have been in a slump creatively for a few days now. I know that may not sound like a big deal to most people; what are a few days? Well, in my case, the book I’m working on is about holiday prep and includes Thanksgiving, so if It isn’t published in the next week or so, I’ll be editing the Thanksgiving part out or waiting another year to publish, neither of which appeals to me, especially since I attempted this last year and didn’t make it. Who wants to fail to publish the same book two years in a row? Ick! As my mood began to sink, my kitchen table began to pile up as it seems to do, so this morning I decided to dive into the mess on the table to see what happened, and it only took about 15 minutes for the epiphany to come. Once again the mess on my kitchen table seemed to be part of the problem when it was actually the gateway to the solution. I once heard a story from life coach Cheryl Richardson about someone who had a terrible time getting rid of some paper clutter. Her advice to this person was to sit and quietly ask, “Why are you still here?” Of course, the person felt like an idiot at first and all of the mind-chatter of because you’re lazy, disorganized and incompetent started cropping up, just as she said it would, but she instructed the student to take a deep breath, let that go and keep asking until a different answer popped up. Eventually, the answer was that a book was waiting to be written from the many notes scattered among the piles. The person had never written a book, but as they began to sit with the idea, they knew that to be the truth, so they began to sift through the piles, keeping only the information that would be pertinent to the book and the piles disappeared. I think that’s how my kitchen table works. It’s almost like it’s some kind of vortex, and I just need to remember that those piles that pop up are ultimately for my own good.

Some days I forget how good my life is, usually when I get caught up in someone else’s life. I forget the incredible blessings I have upon my life because I get mired down in the struggles of others’ lives and it can hold me back from living. That also happened this week. On Monday, two of my youngest son’s classmates went missing. These girls are 15 and 16 and they walked out of school and got into a car with a supposed 20 year old they met online. I got derailed emotionally even after the girls were found since the story going around is that they just wanted to have fun and never come home. When I first found that out I was angry and felt really stupid for even sharing the post that they were missing. But you know what? Even if one of my kids did something like this, I would appreciate every parent who tried to help find them, no matter what the outcome. I guess blessings come in all kinds of packages if you look hard enough.

So after a couple of emotional days and a few piles on the table, I found my mojo again this morning. I began writing and the words began to flow. I even turned my computer on early to get my radio show notes written up so I could cruise the rest of the morning, and I was moving along. Then I got a phone call. A friend who watches her nephew with extraordinary medical needs called and needed help with a fussy toddler who needed his dressing changed and wasn’t cooperating. As I was going to get my jacket, I started to chuckle and looked up as I often do and said, “I guess you’re showing me where my commitments really are,” and I confirmed, yet again, something I’ve known for a very long time. People matter to me and they will always come first. I drove over to my friend’s house and distracted the little man while my friend attended to his medical needs. I probably could have told my friend I had a radio show to do, a school pickup to do, plans for the evening, and she would have understood. She’s a busy mom like me, but I would have known that I violated my priorities, and that would have only served to send me down a path I don’t like going down. I would have ended up angry about something totally unrelated and possibly said something unkind or insensitive to someone who didn’t deserve it. I think that’s where most angry outbursts come from anyway. It seldom has anything to do with the incident at hand. It has to do with feelings of violation that have bubbled under the surface for a long time and for some reason, we think it is noble to stuff that all down and that our negative feelings should not be expressed. I think that’s where the crazy in our society comes from. We’re taught to suppress anything negative and that the façade of perfect is what we need to project. We don’t let ourselves get too close to anyone for fear that they may find out who we are or that we struggle or that we need help. We are taught to be self-reliant and independent, and as Leo Buscalia says, “that’s why we’re all dying of loneliness.”

This week I have struggled. I am attending an online creativity bootcamp that I’m supposed to submit daily some creative thing I’ve done. This week, getting through each day without a meltdown has seemed like a triumph. I have fallen into bed exhausted from nothing but emotion running wild and I’ve submitted nothing. The guilt of that was adding to the spiral of negativity, but again, the table clearing saved me. I don’t owe these people anything. I don’t even know most of them, although I’m coming to love many of them as I learn their stories and the kindred spirits I have all over the globe. I owe me. I owe it to myself to live my best life and be gentle when the valleys come. I owe it to myself to keep releasing the old crap that bubbles up when I feel these spiritual epiphanies so that I can live a more authentic and unique life. I owe it to myself to focus as much as I can on my own life, knowing that my priorities will always include those I care about. I am and always will be people oriented, but I’ve also learned a great secret. For a little while at a time, I can be task oriented. For bits and pieces of my day, I can focus long enough to take care of my home without making it my life’s work. I can get laundry accomplished because it really doesn’t take more than about 15 minutes of my day for each load. Don’t believe me? Time it and see how much time you spend sorting, switching, folding and hanging. A full load for me takes between 10 and 15 minutes. I can even focus on writing a book for 15 minutes at a time and make great progress, and although I can talk forever about nothing, I can even write down notes for a radio show and blog post so that my words have some sense of flow instead of just a bunch or rambling, and those who would rather read the words than listen to them can do just that because remember, it’s all about the people.

Speaking of people, one of the ways I’ve inspired myself is to focus on who I could help with the upcoming book. I know of a few and one in particular who asked me to write this book to help her. I am happy to do that but I wanted to do more, and I have found it. I don’t know who it will be yet, but a portion of the profits of this book will go to help a family in need. I know there are so many who need, and it’s difficult to choose sometimes who you would like to help, but I’ve reached out to someone and if they give permission, I will be donating to them. If not, I have a few others lined up to ask as well, and I know there are several worthy causes out there, so someone will benefit, and I’ll let you know who when the final decision is made.

The march of the holidays has in some ways already begun. Halloween is only two days away. Thanksgiving in the US is five weeks from today, and Christmas is a mere 8 weeks and one day away. For those who celebrate all of them, it is an exciting and sometimes stressful time, but what if we all decided to make them more significant than stressful? What if we keep our eyes and our hearts on the things that bring us joy in every moment? Yes, some of us have extraordinary obstacles, but many of us have mountains made of molehills. We stress over things that we agree to that violate our priorities and subject us to people, places and things that take our joy rather than give it. I have a niece that did that a few years ago. She was recently married and trying to please everyone on both sides of her family. My husband’s family gathers together two times per year, Christmas Eve at my sister in law’s house and Easter at my house. Her new husband’s family gathers much more often, but they had a tradition of staying out of town on Christmas Eve at a relative’s home. She opted to go with her husband and was miserable, but unlike many others, after being miserable, she decided she wouldn’t be doing it again. She decided that she wanted her children to share in the joy of being around the pandemonium that is Christmas Eve with our family. We have four generations and anywhere from 40-80 people, depending on everyone’s plans. It is the only time we see some of the family, but it is a huge bonding experience for us all. Our niece opted for that, and she is so much happier because of it. Believe me, I know what it means to compromise for the holidays. We altered everything about our holidays when I married my husband because it was so much easier to alter the plans of four people than the 35 that were in my husband’s family at the time. We found ways we could both be happy, and when our children came along, we altered things even more. Being flexible is a gift you give, not only to those around you but also to yourself.
So what am I saying? I’m saying that stuff happens. We have ups and downs. We forget our priorities, but that’s part of the journey, and when we remember that and realize the bend in the road and the mountains and molehills are all part of the process, we can get back to the smooth, higher ground faster. Hopefully you have a real life and/or online community that help you remember that, and if you don’t, find one. They exist. I promise, because I’ve found two, and I’m doing my best to create another. Until next time, thanks for being you and have a great day.


4 Responses to “All Paths Lead Through the Kitchen Table”

  1. Chris October 29, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    Thanks for the printed version. I much rather read the articles.

    • karenbemmes October 30, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

      I have several readers who like the convenience of reading when it’s more convenient. Thanks for reading Chris.

  2. Miriam (@PaleoIrish) October 29, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    Great post Karen, thanks for sharing so clearly the struggles that many of us face regularly. I like your humour and your sense of priority.

    You weren’t the only boot camper not contributing actively this week as I also had too many people priorities, it’s just the week that was in it (as we say over here in Ireland), in another week or two I’ll have more time and I know that I’ll start to be more creative again 🙂

    • karenbemmes October 30, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

      And I’m so glad we have a way to continue to cheer each other on. It has been an incredible experience.

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